As a child, Marana resident Linda Williams had the odds piled against her. Alongside her six siblings, Williams grew up in poverty in a two-bedroom, one bathroom trailer on Tucson’s south side. Her mother was an immigrant who didn’t speak English. Her father struggled with alcoholism. The family had no hot water, no neighbors, and no other relatives living in the United States.
Williams’ idea of entertainment was kicking a can down the dirt road that led to and from their trailer.
It was the life she was given – but it was a life she would change.
Williams became a young mother at 15 years old, but still managed to race through high school, graduating in two and a half years and finishing second in her class.
After putting her college degree on hold while she continued raising two children, Williams returned to school, where she eventually finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona with a major in Spanish and minor in chemistry.
She became the first member of her family to graduate college.
But from the time she was eight years old, Williams always had a bigger goal in mind: she wanted to become a doctor.
“I wanted to change my life. I was a middle child, and I didn’t think how we were being raised was correct,” said Williams. “I wanted to change that for my own children. My dad was also sick a lot, and I wanted to change that as well.”
After submitting about 10 applications to various medical schools, Williams was accepted to three of them.
As exciting as the news was, Williams wasn’t sure she was prepared. She had initially planned on applying a year afterward, but was convinced to apply sooner by her college counselor.
“I was in dismay, because I wasn’t ready to go,” said Williams. “It was just all of a sudden.”
But after five years of medical school and two children later, Williams finished her doctorate degree from the University of Arizona.
“It was exhilarating. It was amazing,” said Williams.
After three years of residency, Williams became a general practitioner in downtown Tucson, where she has worked the last 12 years at El Rio Community Health Center.
As much as she loves her job, there were times throughout the 16 years in which she pursued her degree that, naturally, she felt like quitting.
“Many times. Many times I’d fall on my face but I’d get up and tell myself I had to keep going because I wanted to change my life,” she said.
Williams also took quite the financial risk in pursuing her medical degree. She graduated college with $180,000 in student loans.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t know if I would be able to finish, and I wouldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Williams.
Williams just finished paying off her student loans about two years ago. Financially she is much more stable, and she is now indulged in a job she can’t get enough of.
“I love my patients, I love making difference in other peoples lives,” said Williams.
But the lives affected by Williams determination and hard work aren’t limited to her patients.
Her four children have been fortunate enough to have such a mother as a role model. Each of them has either completed or will soon begin college. Williams’ oldest son is a mechanical engineer, and her oldest daughter recently graduated with college with her Ph.D.
Noe Arroyo-Williams, Williams’ 18-year-old son, is a recent graduate of Marana High School. He graduated third in his class of almost 500 students.
Arroyo-Williams will be attending the University of Arizona next year where he will begin a degree in engineering.
He says his mother has been tough yet encouraging as he furthers his education.
“She has always told me it’s not a matter of whether or not I’m going to college,” he said. “It was always, ‘You’re going to college.’”
Arroyo-Williams was the recent recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. The scholarship recognized his academic achievements and leadership in the classroom.
Before graduating in May, Arroyo-Williams frequently served as a tutor to his peers – even older students than himself, and has also worked on several volunteer projects around town, including working with the Salvation Army and the Southwest District Key Club.
“He’s an extremely bright individual that has a lot to contribute to the world,” said Williams. “I’m extremely proud of him and how he has worked around the community to help others.”
The soon-to-be Arizona Wildcat says as he begins his own adventure in college, he feels comfortable knowing his mother is there for him, and has already beaten what seemed to be impossible odds.
“If ever I’m not sure I can make it, or if I think it’s too hard, I can think about how my mom didn’t have anybody to help her,” he said. “I have a lot of people to help me. That helps me remember I can do it because I have so much, and she had so little.”